Wednesday Breakfast with Tim and Mike: What does the future hold for Best?

Posted Oct 17, 2012

Grab a cup of coffee and read Tim and Mike's back-and-forth regarding RB Jahvid Best, S Louis Delmas' impact and what to expect on Monday night against the Bears.

The bad news - for now - on running back Jahvid Best came down Monday. Doctors have not cleared him to return to practice because of the concussion he sustained a year ago. What does the future hold for Best?

Mike: I don't know, the Lions don't know, and Jahvid Best is probably wondering more than anyone. From a football standpoint, this is a blow to the Lions. His skill level adds an element to the offense that no other back on the team possesses. He can stretch the under belly of the defense, and that opens deeper areas for the receivers. That's the short-term issue. In the long-term, the question is whether he will ever play again. It's legitimate to wonder if anything will change if he isn't ready after a year.

I also want to add that I'm surprised. My gut feeling from talking to him last week was that he'd be cleared and would play against the Bears on Monday night. Now, who knows when he will play again?

Tim: Like you, I thought he’d get cleared, but I thought it was more to do with him passing the one-year mark since his last concussion, which was Tuesday, than anything he said. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz left open the possibility of Best still playing this year, in a radio appearance Monday night, but I don’t know how likely that is. It’s certainly a big blow to the offense. We talked about this last week and I told you then that I thought Best was the best mismatch the Lions could trot onto the field outside of Calvin Johnson – big loss.

So what now at running back? Do they go with what they have, or do they need some help?

Mike: Too bad they can't wind the clock back a year and get Ronnie Brown. He looked like a good fill-in Monday night. If they're going to make a trade, the focus should be on a cornerback, because of injuries. That's where they're light right now. The backs they have are good enough, and they've played without Best for a year. So there is no adjustment.

Looking at the secondary, what impact did Louis Delmas make against Philly in his first start of the season?

Tim: I don’t think anyone can honestly tell you they thought Delmas would come out and have seven tackles, two tackles-for-loss, intercept a pass and defend another one in his season debut. Let’s not forget that Delmas hasn’t played a game as healthy as he was Sunday (which still wasn’t 100 percent by his own admission) since the Panthers game last November.

Last week you asked me who was more important to get back: Best or Delmas? I said Best at the time, but Delmas sure made me second-guess that choice the way he played last week. He totally changed that defense.

What about that defensive line, though? It seemed like they earned all that money Sunday.

Mike: Let me remind you, my young friend, that I said Delmas was more important. (It's good to be flexible enough to pat yourself on the back with one hand and type an answer with the other.) The Lions have said often that they've put a lot of resources into the defensive line.  Those resources are draft picks and money, and they were rewarded on both fronts with the performance against Philly. Actually, they played well against Minnesota, too. In both games, they forced the quarterback to run on pass plays from their pressure.

There's a big difference between stats and plays, and taking it a step further, to winning plays. And the defensive line made winning plays in overtime with sacks on first and second down that changed field position, forced a punt, and put the offense in position to drive for the winning field goal. In came Jason Hanson, as reliable as an automatic pin-setter, to win it. That takes the Leos to Monday night against the Bears. What do you see ahead?

Tim: I just knew you’d find a way to pat yourself on the back, Mike. I wouldn't expect anything less. As for Monday night, I thought going against the Eagles was a must-win for the Lions because Monday night would be a more difficult game to win. I still see it that way. The Bears are playing so good on defense that no one is talking anymore about some of the aging stars they have on that unit. The Bears are No. 3 in total defense allowing the fewest points in the NFL. They also cause turnovers, and they don’t just cause them, they turn them into points. Did I mention they’re coming off the bye week and have two weeks to prepare for a Lions offense that won’t have Jahvid Best this time around (remember what he did to them on Monday night last year?).

I think the Lions have their work cut out for them. But that being said, it’s a winnable game if the defense plays like it did in Philadelphia and if Stafford can start to play the way he did in the fourth quarter last week a little earlier on Monday night.

The Lions are riding high off Sunday’s win, Mike, how do you like their chances?

Mike: It would be wise to hold off a few days because of injuries in the secondary, but my bottom-line feeling for Monday night is that I like the Lions in this game. I have a better feeling about their chances than I did for Minnesota or Philadelphia. They protect the quarterback. The running game is reliable but needs to get better in short yardage. Delmas makes a difference in the secondary, especially to Chris Houston. It's like adding a player and a half - the presence of Delmas, and Houston's boost in confidence.

Six days before kickoff, I like the Lions over the Bears.

Tim: I like what receiver Nate Burleson said Monday.

“We’re the ones that nobody wants to see succeed, and we like it that way. We play better that way.”

It looked to me like the Lions got a little of that edge back Sunday. I like a Lions team with an edge and I like how they’re playing right now. I think we agree on this one.